I’m often asked this and I wonder if it’s wise to be too prescriptive?
PR is a growing sector, journalism is shrinking. I made the transition to the Dark-Side after 30+ years of television journalism and have run a Public Relations company for 14 years. It was a major adjustment that included lots of mistakes, mainly learning to manage PR staff and run a business.
But eventually my transition worked.
Difficulties in the transition to Public Relations
Journos are quick learners, savvy and cynical – it goes with being forced to analyse situations quickly to write stories on tight deadlines. They are also driven by a code that includes at its foundation, ‘The public’s right to know’.
PR folk are a different breed, less maverick, more process driven. Their role is more nebulous and ill-defined, I say to ‘Communicate an employer’s or clients’ wants with integrity and accuracy’.
It’s a gentler craft, more about building relationships and trust; less about the rough and tumble of harvesting stories and tough deadlines.
Some journos I’ve employed now work in PR terrifically; others have struggled:
- To start with PR is slower than journalism. Outcomes take time, so different from the news-cycle. Many former journos miss the daily cut-n-thrust.
- Then, I’ve watched senior journalists try PR in our office to discover they were not interested in developing relationships, finding it tedious. In journalism you can get away with shallower relationships as you skip from issue to issue.
- And others have wanted to expose rather than help companies wrestling with issues.
- Another shock is that PR is not about ‘doing journalism on the other side’, sort of traitorous and disloyal to the craft, which is how I felt when I started out. PR actually carries with it as specific raft of skills, with a language that means a lot in PR but is absurd to a seasoned journalist – strategy design, objectives, tactics, stakeholders, Government Relations, Community Consultation, focus groups, statistical significance in surveys, brand design and loyalty.
So, don’t be fooled, there is a reason there is an antipathy between the two crafts, they don’t understand each other. Both crafts, done well, are hard. There is a mix of craftspeople and scumbags in both. Journalists know a little about a lot – broad and shallow; PR folks know a lot about a little – narrow and deep. Neither better, just different. Both can be wonderful careers.
So I say to my mates, many of whom are facing redundancy or worse, it’s a big decision to move to the Dark Side, as while journalism is a struggling sector, the job change is stressful.